Linux to take over the desktop?
This topic is brought up quite a bit on the internet (google search), but there are some new reasons that we may see a greater takeover of the desktop.
- Microsoft's new Vista is expensive, has too many versions,
- Vista requires a beefy computer,
- Vista's DRM is possibly killing itself.
- Microsoft has to lock down their operating system because of malware. This will make it more difficult for other software and hardware to work with Windows, and for users to set up their computer the way they want.
- Compelling gaming consoles and increased PC graphic card costs may kill PC gaming.
The big advantage of PC gaming was that you had a better screen, a keyboard and the possibility of stealing games from the Internet. Also, you had a good excuse to purchase a kick-ass computer. Now with high definition televisions and gaming consoles with special remotes, all of a sudden installing games on a PC seems like a lot more work.
- Really super easy installs with the Synaptic package manager, and it's like, all of a sudden putting in a CD to install software looks archaic. Also, we still have the problem of badly made installers for Windows which don't uninstall correctly.
- Some really nice software for Linux, like amaroK.
- Good free alternatives exist for Linux (Firefox, Thunderbird, OpenOffice, Inkscape, etc.). People used to Microsoft Office, might be a little disappointed with OpenOffice, but it does have some features that make it interesting (cost, free language packs - vs Microsoft, bibliography, PDF and SWF output and uses the OpenDocument standard).
- Linux has the best built-in support of USB devices (with windows you usually need to install something from a CD).
- Linux can work extremely well on older hardware, and projects like the OLPC will make it even better.
A great programmer friend of mine told me that they're all good and they're all bad. Like me he loves them all and he dispises them all a little bit. But as a programmer he in interested in all of them. He is not religious about his machines, it's just what they are: machines.
I believe Linux is still a long way to the desktop unless Web Applications pick up, become 100% reliable and are the de-facto standard. Linux may be catching up, but Windows is also evolving, as well as the seemingly excellent Mac OS.
Strangely enough, I remember seeing these comments in 1995 when it came to OS/2 and Windows. OS/2 is replaced by Linux but I'm reading the same arguments again. Yet OS/2 Warp was a fantastic platform yet it didn't overtake Windows.
An important point that you forget to mention is market perception. Microsoft is seen as the emperor in the business, and Linux (for those non-tech people who even have a vague idea what Linux is) isn't. Just the fact that there are many distros to choose from, and that Linux users will proclaim their distro to be the best, is good enough to confuse any non-techy person. And there are lot of non-techy people out there. A lot.
While Linux's hardware requirements are not as demanding as Windows, I run Vista on a 933mhz machine and it performs really well. As for the DRM the masses don't really care about that. They buy their CDs in store, or order them online, or go to iTunes. The DRM factor won't affect most people in the short term. And most people think short term. And I am going to offend some here but I pay for my music. I find it to be overpriced, but that's the price it's been set at. Toyotas are 40% more expensive in Canada as they are in the States, but that still doesn't entitle me to steal one. I have the choice of not buying one. Maybe it's because I write software for a living and I don't live as well if people steal my stuff, but that's my view on it.
When it comes to setting up Vista, it's not that hard. It doesn't require rocket science to do so. Normal users won't really need to, software will be adapted to the new O.S. that's all.
As for gaming I don't think that's an issue for the moment, as the PC software industry is still seeing increases, even in the wake of game consoles. And then there's that pesky market percetion again: I can tell my wife that I'm going to buy a 1600$ computer and she'll say "good idea". But if I tell her I'm going to drop 650$ on a PS3 or even $250 on a Wii she'll roll her eyes. For now you can do a lot more with a PC, and it doesn't monopolize the television.
As for the installer, I will for sure try Synaptic - I'm assuming it's in my ubuntu installation - but note that most desktop people don't uninstall software. But I hate the fact that some software is stated to work with this or this distro, and you're often shit out of luck when you don't have the right distro. Then the library wars begin, trying to find the right library for the app to work and so on. I've had to upgrade drivers with Windows but it's been painless (go to manufacturer's site, download, install that's it). Libraries in Linux, on the other hand can be daunting - no specific site - sometimes hard to find
And while there's some really nice software for Linux, there's a lot more for Windows or Mac. OpenOffice might be nice (I use it regularly even if I have Office) but it's definitely not as polished as Office.
As for USB I don't remember the last time I have had to insert a CD to get something running but mind you I only have a printer, a keyboard, a mouse, a scanner and a digital camera so my test base is very small.
There are more chances of having software written for the PC (at this point) as there is for a Linux machine. Software companies work for profit and profit margins are small in the OSS world. While accomplishment is fun and rewarding it doesn't put food on the table.
And I like it when I read stuff like: I installed my distro on my grandpa's computer and he has no problem using it. I came in this situation a year ago when some non-techy user wanted me to install some software they really wanted because they wanted to exchange files with their friends. Of course they barely new what that meant, I'm not even sure their genealogy program could do it 'cause I never got to install it. Someone has set them up with a Fedora machine and it was Windows software. So a great Linux person made them a service by converting them to Linux. That great Linux person did not however evaluate their client's needs. Any good computer person evaluates his client's needs and then sets them up according to what the client is going to need, not to satisfy their own needs.
Don't take me wrong, I don't totally disagree with what you write. But it is one sided and reading this to me is like watching Fox news. So I'm taking the other side. As far as I'm concerned they each have their strength or weaknesses but as long as Microsoft has the market perception as being the ones to buy from. That's it. It's going to change with time but Linux as an O.S. is NOT going to compete against Microsoft in the non tech world. When comes the day, however, when software runs mostly on browsers then neither Microsoft nor Linux will be relevant, and by sheer cost Linux will take over.